This handsome, early 19th-century Georgian house sits on Liverpool Road, in the heart of Islington’s Barnsbury Conservation Area. Unfolding over 1,800 sq ft, this Grade II-listed terrace was built as part of a residential boom in the area and comprises two light-filled sitting rooms, a raised terrace and a separate garden. In need of some updating, the house is a wonderful blank canvas still complete with all of its exceptional original features, from sash windows to cornicing and fireplaces. The house is a short walk both from Highbury & Islington Station as well as Upper Street, within easy reach of the area’s brilliant eateries, independent shops and transport links.
Setting the Scene
For fifty years the house was home to celebrated pop art artist Sue Dunkley, who used the ground floor as a painting studio for her bold and vibrant, large canvases of abstracted figures and landscapes. The former studio’s floorboards are still flecked with paint. Dunkley, who socialised with an interesting crowd of artists, musicians and poets, hosted the likes of Pink Floyd, Phyllida Barlow, fellow painter Howard Hodgkin, and poet Seamus Heaney. The house served as a fantastic, characterful backdrop to many a gathering of like-minded creatives.
Liverpool Road was originally called Back Road and ran along open countryside throughout its early history. It was one of a trio of roads, along with Upper Street and Essex Road, that converged at the Angel Inn and was an ancient travelling route in and out of London. For more information, please see the History section.
The Grand Tour
This four-storey mid-terrace house, built circa 1834, retains almost all of its original features. Constructed from yellow stock brick set in Flemish bond, the terrace of houses all have rendered and rusticated stucco ground floors, with brick top floors punctuated with square-headed sashes. The house is set back from the road, separated by a front garden with a beautiful hydrangea growing. The front door opens into a hallway, with a sitting room to one side – formally Dunkley’s painting studio. It has an elegant arched window, and the paint-spattered floorboards remain. Behind is a bedroom overlooking the terrace.
Below, the lower-ground floor is home to the kitchen, with bright red terracotta floor tiles. The kitchen is composed of free-standing furniture, with a double sink positioned in front of a row of windows framing garden views. Above, a skylight draws more light into the room. There is an additional shower room and a cellar for storage on this level.
A superb sitting room is found on the first floor. With wonderfully high ceilings and two tall sash windows, the space is beautifully airy and voluminous. Here, the plaster ceiling has been carefully revealed and polished and is framed by the original Georgian cornicing. The original floorboards can be found underneath the carpet on this floor. To one side, a black marble fireplace surround sits above a slate hearth. There is also a bedroom on this floor.
The principal bedroom occupies the storey above, also with lovely large windows. There is also a shared family bathroom, with a separate WC. There is a small kitchenette on a half level above.
The Great Outdoors
Surrounded by beautiful old brick walls, the west-facing garden is private and pretty. Currently paved, the story goes that the stones were salvaged from the Tower of London. The space is bordered by raised flower beds packed with edible rosemary and nasturtium, alongside __ and ___. A mature fig tree sits in one corner.
Above is a fantastic terrace; a real suntrap in the summer months, it is the perfect place to keep a table and chairs, and to host dinner parties long into the evening.
Out and About
Liverpool Road lies in the centre of Islington. Upper Street is home to an abundance of amenities, from Ottolenghi to Gail’s, the Almeida Theatre to The Old Red Lion Theatre & Pub. The charming Compton Arms and the wonderful Union Chapel are both a minute’s walk from the house, along with the Pig and Butcher. For art, the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art is only a short walk away. Third Space gym is also a four-minute walk from the door.
Islington High Street and the excellent Camden Passage are also close by. The area has some excellent gastropubs, including The Drapers Arms and The Albion. Corbin and King’s Bellanger is nearby on Islington Green.
The area enjoys excellent access to public transport, including several main bus routes to the City and central London. The house is an eight-minute walk from both Highbury & Islington (Victoria Line) and Angel (Northern Line). The Eurostar at King’s Cross St Pancras is also easily accessible, as are London’s airports.
Council Tax Band: G
Islington was rural throughout the medieval period, being described as a “savage place” and a forest “full of the lairs of wild beasts” where bears and wild bulls roamed.
By the late 16th century, the area slowly grew from a hamlet to a village, spreading along Upper Street and Liverpool Road. The fields between the two roads provided food and shelter for livestock en route to Smithfield Market. This, combined with the fact these roads were the most popular routes in and out of London, meant that numerous pubs sprang up for passing travellers; there were nine clustered in the area by 1590.
Several grand manor houses, now sadly lost, also occupied these bucolic outskirts of the city. As a hub for produce and livestock, Islington became a significant supplier to the burgeoning population of London for butter, cream and milk. In the 18th century, brick terraces began to take over agricultural land, and local farmers turned their hands to manufacturing bricks and developing property.
The advent of the Georgian era saw a regularisation of the area. The road was renamed from Back Road to Liverpool Road in honour of the statesman Robert Banks Jenkinson, second Earl of Liverpool and Prime Minister 1812-1827. The 19th century saw a continued expansion in housing. In 1801, the population was 10,212, but by 1891 this had increased to 319,143. This growth was partly due to the introduction of horse-drawn omnibuses in 1830. Large, well-built houses and fashionable squares drew clerks, artisans and professionals to the district.
The Blitz during World War II caused much damage to Islington’s housing stock, with 3,200 dwellings destroyed. In the 1960s, though, the remaining Georgian terraces were rediscovered and celebrated.
The house, which became the backdrop to Sue Dunkley’s life and creative output, also acted much like a gallery space over the years, where there was never a blank wall. It was also a home to some brilliant parties – a gathering place for like-minded people – with artists and writers talking and drinking animatedly in the kitchen during the 1960s and 1970s, well into the night. Balanced on the fireplace is a black and white picture of Sue Dunkley at home in 1974.
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